Colorado becomes first state to approve regulations to curb fracking emissions

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 by: L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
Tags: Colorado, fracking emissions, state regulations

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(NaturalNews) A picturesque Colorado landscape, flowing with brushstrokes of the mighty Rocky Mountains, is being clouded over by smog. Free flowing rivers and healthy groundwater are slowly being contaminated by the emissions of fracking operations. Climate and agriculture, adversely affected by heat-trapping methane gases, is at stake. Concerned citizens don't want to watch their beautiful countryside fade away into a puff of pollution, and now the state is taking action.

Oil drilling industry, environmentalists and Colorado state taking action together

As oil drillers encroach on communities, residents are calling out for the restoration of nature.
Volatile emissions perpetuate smog which hovers above the Colorado landscape. Recently, five Colorado communities voted to restrict a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing. Their environmental concerns have led Colorado regulators to propose groundbreaking controls on oil and natural gas emissions that could counter worsening water quality and smog.

Colorado's largest oil and gas producers, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Noble Energy Inc. and Encana Corp., are working with the Environmental Defense Fund and the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission to solve problems related to leaks from tanks and pipes. These emissions let out methane pollution, which adversely affects the climate and air quality.

First-of-their-kind fracking rules aim to fix emission leaks

Fracking injects a pressurized mixture of water, sand and chemicals below the ground to break up rock formations that may be impeding oil flow. Drilling companies use a series of pipes and tanks to move and store hydrocarbons, which can leak. The new Governor-approved regulations will create a monitoring system that will help keep volatile compounds out of the air. Estimates show that, in a year's time, enough compounds could be removed from the air to be equivalent to removing the emissions from every car and truck in the state of Colorado.

The new regulations are comprehensive and do not exempt smaller drilling operations. The new rules are statewide and will also focus on areas that routinely violate federal air quality standards. The regulations will require drilling companies to install new equipment to minimize leaking toxic gases, effective at capturing 95 percent of emissions. Well sites will be inspected for leaks once a month by energy producers. Producers will have 15 days to fix any leaks.

Industry cooperation shows promise for future air and water purity

The new rules are unique in that they are agreed upon by the oil drilling companies, regulators and environmentalists. Progress toward a cleaner environment in Colorado is moving well. The haze is lifting. Curtis Rueter, a Denver-based development manager at Noble Energy, said, "This is the right thing to do for our business. We want to find the leaks and fix them because that will reduce our emissions and the rules provide guidance and technology for us to do that."

The cooperation will quickly improve air quality for those in the Rocky Mountain state, thus reducing the formation of ozone and subsequent respiratory problems and weakened crop yields. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane is 20 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. This can affect regional agriculture. While the restrictions may slow down oil production, they may increase the livelihood of the Colorado people and restore the surrounding environment. Agriculture could grow. The restrictions may actually help people as a whole in the long run.

As one of the US's top 10 producers of oil and the sixth-largest producer of natural gas, Colorado is poised to lead by example in helping restore air quality.

"We all live here, we all have families here and work here and we want to have clean air," says Korby Bracken, Anadarko's Rockies' environmental health and safety director. "This provides us an additional piece to talk with community members about what oil and gas companies are doing to make sure we're protecting the environment."

While economists believe that the new regulations will cost $100 million to implement, many oil companies are agreeing to make the much needed changes, even at high costs. This is forward thinking, showing respect for the future health, climate and environment of Colorado. This move will most likely set an important precedent for other states to follow.

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